Anaphylaxis is a sudden onset, immediate reaction that implies a risk of death. Think of a “rule of 2s” for anaphylaxis, which implies that reactions usually begin within 2 minutes to 2 hours after injection, infusion, ingestion, contact, or inhalation. Fatalities can be from asphyxiation from laryngeal or oropharyngeal swelling, collapse from hypotensive shock, cardiac arrest, or acute severe bronchoconstriction that causes respiratory failure and arrest. When there is activation of mast cells and basophils in anaphylaxis, chemical mediators are detectable. The preformed mediators from mast cells include histamine, tryptase, carboxypeptidase A, and proteoglycans (heparin, chondroitin sulfates). Newly synthesized mediators include prostaglandin D2, leukotriene D4, and platelet activating factor. Crucial actions of the mediators include an abrupt increase in vascular permeability, vascular smooth muscle relaxation, and bronchial smooth muscle contraction. Anaphylaxis can be classified into immunologic, nonimmunologic, or idiopathic based on the associated mechanism. For example, immunologic causes of anaphylaxis are those mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies acting through the FcεR I (foods, insect venom, 32 β-lactam antibiotics), whereas non-IgE immunologic anaphylaxis is mediated without the presence of anti-allergen IgE antibodies or via FcεRI activation (radiographic contrast material). Nonimmunologic anaphylaxis involves mast cell mediator release such as occurs with exercise or with cold temperature exposure, or from medications such as opioids or vancomycin. Idiopathic anaphylaxis involves mast cell activation (acutely elevated urine histamine or serum tryptase) and activated lymphocytes. Because anaphylaxis is a medical emergency, the drug of choice is epinephrine, not H1 antihistamines or H2 receptor antagonists.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine